tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN October 18, 2017 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT
players in the nfl stand for the national anthem. does the president believe that he's winning this argument or has won this argument as it relates to what he said about whether players should stand for the playing of the national anthem? >> i think it's certainly a step in the right direction. as we've said many times before, the president supports standing for the national anthem, saluting the flag and honoring those men and women in uniform that fight to protect it. >> sarah, thanks. does the president feel as a matter of principle that it is not adequate to simply send a letter of condolence to the family of a slain service person as president bush and president obama typically did? and does he feel that it was not adequate for president obama to have sent a letter to general kelly but not call general kelly on the death of his son? >> i don't think that there's anything that any president can
do, there's never going to be enough that a president can do for the families of those that are killed in action. the point the president was making is that there's a different process. sometimes they call, sometimes they write letters, sometimes they engage directly. the comments were certainly, i think, taken very far out of context by the media, and if there's any frustration, i think that's where it should be focused. >> sarah. >> let me ask you about something steve mnuchin said since you talk about the stock market a lot and the president does as well. he said, and i quote here, there's no question in my mind that if we don't get it done, meaning tax reform, that you're going to see reversal of these gains. how concerned is the president at this point of that possibility? >> we're confident that we're going to get tax cuts done and so that's what we're focused on. we're going to continue pushing forward. >> on the health care bill. >> i'm going to take one question today.
>> the president tweeted about the california wildfire situation. does he have any plans at this point to visit california to survey the damage in person? and if he doesn't, does that speak to a lack of interest in helping the state in the wildfires? >> not at all. the administration has been very engaged throughout this process. we're going to continue to be there. we're continuing to talk with state and local officials on the ground and work with those individuals to make sure that whatever aid is needed, that we can help provide that process. >> is he going to go to the state though? >> there's not a trip planned at this time but it certainly hasn't been ruled out either. >> phillip. >> thank you, sarah. can you please clarify the president's position on cu kurdistan? and does the president see kurdistan as an ally in general? >> that position doesn't change. i've talked about it. we urge all sides to avoid
escalating this further. we oppose the violence from any party and we'd like for them to be focused on helping continue in the fights against isis and that's where -- and iran and that's where we'd like to see their energy focused. >> after keeping the -- >> sorry, i'm going to keep to one question. >> sarah, it's been more than two months since the president said he would declare the open owed a national emergency. on monday he said he would get to it next week. he called it time consuming work. can you detail some of what this time consuming work is and what players are involved in this process? >> there's a very indepth legal process declaring national emergency. we'll make further announcements on that next week. it's an inner agency process. a lot of different stakeholders have been involved and we'll have further announcements on that next week like the president said. >> sorry, i'm going to stick to the one question. >> just following up on tax reform. can you sort of talk about the
strategy from the white house going forward on this? i know mark shore told us democrats were a must have on this bill, on tax reform. is that where things are? >> i think it's pretty simple, the strategy is to get enough votes to pass tax cuts. >> can you elaborate on getting democrats on board? >> look, we don't know why any democrat would be against providing tax relief and tax cuts to middle class america. i don't know why anybody wouldn't want to get on board with that. >> hunter? >> thank you, sarah. it's been almost a month since hurricane maria hit puerto rico. 80% of the island still don't have power and they still don't have reliable drinking water. does the administration consider the current state of affairs in puerto rico okay? >> we're continuing to do everything we can to help the people of puerto rico. that's one of the reasons that the governor will be here at the white house tomorrow, to
continue those conversations to talk about how best the federal government can help aid state and local governments and help in the rebuilding and recovery efforts. >> thank you, sarah. fed chair search, the president said he considers himself to be a low interest rate guy. does he still consider himself to be a low interest rate guy? will that have any bearing on who he selects to run the fed? >> as the president said yesterday,' number of very qualified individuals have been interviewed. he'll make that. we can deliberate all of the details of that once that happens. >> days -- >> days add up to weeks. >> sarah, the phone call real quick. what exactly is the president denying? is he denying that he ever spoke these words to the widow, that he must have known what he signed up for, or is he saying she took it the wrong way? >> the president's call, as accounted by multiple people in
the room, believe that the president was completely respectful, very sympathetic and expressed the condolences of himself and the rest of the country and thanked the family for their service, commended them for having an american hero in their family and i don't know how you could take that any other way. >> it wasn't that he didn't say those words, it was the context, he felt that she put it in the wrong context, is that it? >> i'm not going to get into the back and forth. i think the sentiment of the president was very clear. he took the time to make a call to express his condolences to thank the family for this individual's service and i think it frankly is a disgrace of the media to try to portray an act of kindness like that and that gesture and to try to make it into something that it isn't. peter? >> sarah, did the president speak to his chief of staff, general john kelly, before invoking his son's death in what
has become a political argument. >> i know he's spoken to general kelly several times yesterday and today. >> did he know he would be -- >> i'm not sure if he knew of that specific comment, but they had certainly spoken about it and he's aware and they've spoken several times since then. >> can you explain how general kelly feels about it? >> i think that general kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that american lives were lost. i think he's disgusted and frustrated by that. if he has any anger, it's towards that. fred. >> the house has a ban on abortions. the president has said that the president would sign this legislation. is the white house putting pressure on the senate to pass the lindsay-graham bill that would ban -- >> i'm he sorry, what was the
last part of the question? >> is the white house putting pressure on the senate to pass the linds say-graham 20-week ban? >> i know there have been conversations on that and the administration supports that policy but beyond that i don't know if there have been further conversations or pressure applied. certainly support that effort. >> april. >> sarah, congresswoman wilson, i spoke to her a couple of hours ago, and she says that this is the -- since benghazi, she says that jackson was -- they were in niger trying to find out information and doing a mission about boko haram and she said that his transmitter was still emitting for two days, emitting a signal when he was located, and she said that makes no sense why he wasn't located. what say you about that? also, what do you say about her comment that he did not know and
the wife, the widow said that the president did not know his name and kept saying, your guy, your guy? >> just because the president said your guy, i don't think that means that he doesn't know his name. as the president stated, the hardest job he has is making calls like that. i think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done and the way that she's politicized this issue and the way that she is trying to make this about something that it isn't. this was a president who loves our country very much who has the greatest level of respect for men and women in the uniform and wanted to call and offer condolences to the family and i think to try to create something from that that the congresswoman is doing is frankly appalling and disgusting. >> she said about niger. what do you say about what she said about the mission? >> as i said to the major, i'm not going to get into the details of that. >> was she right? >> i'm not going to get into the
details of this action at that time. when we have further information, i'll be happy to discuss it with you. >> hallie. >> thank you. setting aside the congresswoman, setting aside the conversation about the politicization of this. the woman who raised sargeant johnson and she said she felt like her son had been disrespected. i'm not asking you about what congresswoman wilson had to say, as you rightly know, making these phone calls is probably one of the hardest things a commander in chief has to do. given that, is the president reconsidering the way he communicates with these families? has general kelly counselled him on how he might want to choose or change his words in the future? >> general kelly was present for the call and thought it was completely appropriate. he thought the call was respectful and he thought that the president did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on the part of the country. >> the mexican negotiators have
rejected the u.s. proposals, proposals that were described as unconventional and troubling. is nafta dead? >> not yet, but as the president said, it's a bad deal and he wants to make sure we have a deal that benefits american workers. that's what this administration is focused on. we're going to continue to push forward and if we can't get there, we'll let you know what the changes are. >> francesca. >> thank you. in a tweet this morning president trump said comey lied, protected hillary clinton. what does the president want the justice department to do? is he calling for prosecution of james comey? what's he asking for here? >> the white house hasn't and won't offer a legal opinion on comey's conduct. to the direct conflict, the white house has directed that to the white house. >> what does he want the
department of justice to do in his tweet? >> we refer any legal action to the department of justice. anything on that front will be handled by them. sarah. >> sarah, when the president is upset about something we hear from him pretty quickly about it, whether it's an issue with a senator, whether it's an issue with the nfl, so why did it take nearly two weeks for him to say something about this isis ambush, not to reach out to the families necessarily but even to offer public condolences or to explain to the american public what happened and how this went so wrong? >> as i said before, there is a protocol for that but there's also -- we did make public remarks from the administration. i know i did in short order after that happened from the podium at the direction of the president. i speak on his behalf. >> sarah, you brought up politicizing a couple of times but did the president polite
size general kelly's son's death by bringing it up about what past presidents did or did not do? >> he was responding to a question and stating a fact. >> sarah, just to clarify your earlier answer, you're not denying that at some point in the conversation the president used the words, that's what he signed up for? >> i spoke specifically to the sentiment that was offered by the president. i didn't get into the details of a personal call because i don't find that to be that appropriate. trey? >> thank you, sarah. you opened up at the top discussing the liberation of raqqah. so my question for you is how does the president envision future u.s. involvement in both syria and iraq post isis? >> we want to continue to work with our coalition forces to completely destroy and defeat isis. right now that's the priority and that's the focus and that's where we're going to be continued to be focused on at this time. thank you so much for today and see you tomorrow. >>you, sarah.
>> the white house says there is no recording of the call of him killed in niger. there's proof by a lawmaker and the slain soldier's mother that he told the widow he knows what he signed up for. he says he has called the family member of every military person killed in action. he has done so based on the information given to him. there are some families who have not heard from the president and that includes my next guest. whitney hunter is the widow of army sargeant jonathan hunter. he was one of two pair a troopers who were killed just this past august because of a car bomb near kandahar, afghanistan. this was his first deployment. first off, whitney, i mean, we can't even begin to express how sorry we are for your loss, and also i think just for how sorry we are having to talk about this issue that has come up when certainly you should be
concentrating on grieving as the family of la david johnson is. i just wonder when you heard part of that briefing there and there's all of this controversy over the white house contacting families, gold star families, have -- tell us about your experience with contact with the white house, with the president, with the vice president. >> at the dignified transfer in dover i was extremely honored to have had vice president pence there. he spent a great deal of time talking to me and it wasn't -- it wasn't an uncomfortable type of thing. he really was just a very genuine human being and he shared his condolences and he talked to me like he knew me forever so it meant a lot to have him there. soon after, maybe it was -- it was around the same time i know that i was meeting with my casualty officer and he received a call from the white house, i'm not exactly sure who, but he was told that i needed to be by my phone for the next few days
because the president would be calling me to express his condolences on behalf of the nation and i just -- i never received the phone call. >> what would it have meant to have received the phone call? >> i think for me i'm kind of neutral on the topic. just having the extreme outpouring of support and condolences and just my support system in general and the reaching out of all kinds of military officials and government officials, it made it -- i knew that jonathan's sacrifice was appreciated and i knew that the condolences were sent out to me so it was very genuine. but my issue is i -- having all of the support i had was great but not receiving the phone call, it just -- i don't like that i was told that i would receive the phone call but then
i never did. >> sure. >> i don't have -- i don't have anything negative to say directly about the president, but my husband died for our country. he died for our nation in defense of our nation and i don't want that to have been in vain or to have been -- i don't want it to be taken for granted and i don't have anything negative to say about our president but i do know the difference between right and wrong. and whenever you say you're going to do something, you're supposed to do it. and i just -- i really wish -- i want people to know that. i mean, if you say you're going to do something, do it. >> did you get a letter? >> i did receive -- i received a presidential certificate, to my knowledge it's customary for this type of situation that you are able to request a presidential certificate just acknowledging the death and the sacrifice and it's signed directly by the president, so i did receive that. >> but you didn't receive a personalized letter, it was more of a certificate?
>> yes, ma'am, it was just -- it was a certificate signed by the president to my knowledge but i didn't receive like a personal letter, no, ma'am. >> i know you've gotten tremendous outpouring from top level military officials. you talked to the vice president and clearly those words have brought you some comfort. what would you have wanted to hear from president trump? >> just -- just knowing that it was appreciated. not necessarily -- appreciated isn't the word. there's not really an appropriate word. just knowing that he was grateful for the sacrifice of my husband and for christopher harris and just hearing that, it would have been a tremendous honor to have heard that directly from the president. >> when you hear this controversy right now and you hear the account of this
congresswoman, which is backed up by the account of la david johnson's mother, that the president told the widow, quote, well, i guess he knew what he signed up for, but i guess it still hurt, that's really the characterization, not exactly verbatim coming from the congresswoman, when you think of a widow being told that from the -- from your vantage point of knowing what it is like to go through this horrible thing, what's your reaction? >> i think me personally as a military spouse, this is something that you go into -- my marriage, i went into it knowing -- you know the risks. you know what you're signing up for. you spend every day knowing what you signed up for, but whenever you are dealing with the tremendous amount of grief that me and any other fellow widow is experiencing right now, that's
not something i think anyone, whether a family member or anybody has -- it's not their position to say that. i feel for her. i really do. i know that this is an extremely hard time so we already know that this is what we signed up for, we just never really thought that we would be on the other side of it. >> the 82nd airborne division posted something about your husband that i want to read. it said, quote, sargeant jonathan hunter was the leader that we all want to work for. strong, decisive, compassionate and courageous. he was reveered by his paratroopers and respected throughout his unit. you just lost him a few months ago. what do you want the world to know about him? >> everything you just said was spot on. he was a phenomenal man. he -- he sacrificed his life and i know for a fact he would have
done it as many times as necessary to protect his brothers and to protect our nation and to protect me and you and everybody. and i just -- i don't want it to ever be taken for granted because i lost my husband in defense of this nation and that's something that i will treasure forever knowing that i married a hero. >> and what was he like? what was he like to his friends? what was he like to you? >> there is not a single room that that man has ever fwhukd that he did not just light up and spread just a very unique type of joy and laughter and just happiness. he was -- he was perfect. he was -- he was just a really, really genuinely great person. >> whitney hunter, i cannot thank you enough for lending us your perspective here. we are thinking of you. we are thinking of your family and we are remembering your
husband along with you. thank you so much. >> thank you very much. >> i want to bring in my panel now. paul reikoff, i want to start with you as someone who represents so many veterans. and, first off, if we can just acknowledge how emotional it is to listen to whitney there, but when you listen to the white house briefing there and the explanation, what did you think? >> i think the only thing that matters is what whitney says and what whitney thinks. the only thing that matters in the midst of all the political back and forth is what the president feels, the congresswoman feels, it's what mrs. johnson feels. it's a conscious calling moment for our nation. these gold stars families have sacrificed. they are what represents our country. if we need a true north in times like this, i hope that gold star families can be that true north and cut through all the nonsense
and let's listen to them and ask them what they need. that's the most important thing for all of us to focus on, what they need and what they think we should do. >> ed, what did you think there listening to whitney. >> first of all, briana, thank you. you let her shine about her husband. i thought it was extraordinary kindness. as paul said earlier, these are sacred moments. god spare us the loss of a loved one like that. what a woman that is to see. the press conference, i admire sarah huckabee sanders. if i can say since we're talking about that press conference, it's an extraordinary time in this administration. in one press conference you heard nafta, health care, tax cuts, isis are all happening and if we could get the space for the sacredness of this event and move it off and focus on the
policy, i think people would feel better about what's happening. but it was an extraordinary interview you just had. i can't say that enough to you, briana. >> thank you. in listening to her perspective, it is the perspective that matters as paul said. nia, i wonder what you think though. sarah was asked about this, wasn't it the president who brought general kelly and the death of his son into the political sphere on this? she said he was just answering a question factually as she dodged that question, but isn't it the role of the president to not do that? to be the person who sets the tone here on the conversation like this? >> yeah. and i think, you know, it's a good argument to be made that he polite sized this from the rose garden when he brought obama in and other presidents and essentially tried to play a one upsmanship on how other presidents dealt with the families of the war dead and then he of course brought in robert kelly, john kelly's son. if you go back to when robert
kelly died, john kelly was very plain about he didn't want the news media to focus on this. he didn't think that it had to be noteworthy that his son died anymore than the son of a plumber, the son, you know, of a mechanic. so he very much didn't want his son's death to be, you know, specifically highlighted because of who his father was. so then you had donald trump bringing his son into this debate, i think polite sizing it is an accurate way to describe the way president trump was trying to use john kelly's son's name in that argument that he was in having how presidents have conducted themselves in the family of the war dead. you saw there sanders not really answering that question, right? just saying he was asking -- answering a question. i think what's interesting, too, is it seems like what happened here was that the president's heart was in the right place but his words didn't necessarily
match that. and it seems like there's been a big miscommunication and the family there, mayesha johnson and the family of la david johnson seemed to feel like their family and that the memory of the son and the husband were disrespected. so that is something that still has to be addressed at some point. >> ed, you were shaking your head at a point there. >> well, yeah. i just think -- i think that was the best thing at the end was his heart was in the right place. maybe some of it came out wrong. >> ed, who cares where his heart is. that's not the point. isn't the more important thing about how a widow and a family perceives what he says? >> well, no. >> why are you making excuses for the president when it's his job -- >> i'm not making excuses. >> it's his job to have his heart in the right place and the words in the right place. >> the job is to have as best he can to handle the moment correctly. when he says obama didn't call kelly, i don't think we should
judge that. bill clinton was described as being really good at meeting with the families. when he has pence meet the families, they're doing the best they can. one is the widow, as we said earlier about the widow, their perspective, no matter what, has to be understood and respected. so i'm with you on all of that. but the pull back, what i meant is when i said kelly was in the middle of it, he was on the phone call. in other words, they thought the protocol for being respectful was best to have general kelly as chief of staff on the call. and he said that it was honorable and it was done in the right way. that's got to mean something. and i'm saying, now let's move this off center stage and talk about nafta going down and talk about health care going down. i just think we're beating the argument into the ground. >> i'm not ready to talk about nafta yet. evan, weigh in on this. >> basically, look, i think this is something that the president
could be given the benefit of the doubt on. in fact, i think if this situation had happened with the president with any other president saying the words that donald trump is reported to have said, it probably wouldn't be as much of an issue. i think most other presidents, at least that we've had in modern times, would sort of be given the benefit of the doubt or the pass at maybe saying the wrong thing. but this is the situation. the situation is the president is somebody who has known not always to have shown respect for gold star families. he's attacked one of our greatest national heroes, john mccain, because he was taken prisoner. he's known to be a person who doesn't exhibit much sympathy in general and because of that he doesn't have that store of credit that you would draw upon in this situation like we all do in our daily lives when we say the wrong thing if we're genuinely known to be sympathetic or well-intentioned person, then we're given the benefit of the doubt. the problem is the president is
very low on that credit, especially when it comes to gold star families. so if he says the wrong thing, even mistakenly, it can be problematic for him and i think that's what we're seeing here. >> i want to thank you all. it's very difficult to talk about. i really appreciate all of your diverse perspectives. thank you so much. we do want to take an important moment here to honor the soldier and the family that he leaves behind. his wife, just 24 years old, she is 6 months pregnant. they also have two other children together including a 6-year-old daughter who was at her mother's side when her father's casket arrived in the u.s. i want you just to take a look at this solemn ceremony. it's a ceremony that no military family wants to witness.
it's been two weeks since that ambush in niger that left four u.s. soldiers dead and now the defense department is launching an investigation to find out what happened on the ground, why these four men walked into a terrible ambush. multiple u.s. officials describe the scene of confusion during the october 4th attack that involved some 50 isis affiliated fighters near the border of mali. i want to bring in barbara starr. barbara, you have new reporting about the evacuations that came after the ambush? >> reporter: we do, indeed, briana. let's as you said recall that two weeks later we are still learning new information from the u.s. military which is trying to investigate all of this, put together a time line of what happened hour by hour, but now we are told by the u.s. africa command that, in fact, a private contractor aircraft,
private aviation under contract to the u.s. military in west africa went in after the firefight and evacuated the dead and the wounded. until now we had only been told that french helicopters, french military helicopters went in and of course they would have been armed. we still believe it is the case that they went in and also evacuated some, but what we're trying to find out, and this is a very key point, did both the contractor plane, which is not armed, and the french military helicopter evacuate dead and wounded americans? did both of those aircraft have good communication? quite bluntly, did they do a nose count? did they know how many people they were supposed to evacuate and did they have them all when they lifted off from that area? because la david johnson got left behind for 48 hours and the major question is what happened to him? how he became separated and how
nobody was able to recover his body until the nigerians found him 48 hours later. so this new information that an unarmed contractor plane went in to try and help and, in fact, evacuate some of the dead and wounded adds to the puzzle, adds to the questions being asked. what we know is that defense secretary james mattis is pressing very hard for answers about all of this. what was the intelligence? how could the 12-man team led by green berets walk into an isis ambush and perhaps most importantly how did sargeant la david johnson get left behind. briana? >> barbara, we have just gotten word that senator john mccain is saying the administration isn't being forthcoming about what's going on. what is the concern here from people like john mccain and others who feel like they just aren't getting answers? >> reporter: well, let me put it this way. we are two weeks past this event. it has a good deal of human
tragedy for military families, and beyond those, the four that were killed, you have two wounded in hospital, you have six others as part of the team back at fort brag obviously having been through a terrible battle. you have military families all over the country that are watching all of this unfold and wondering what happened because you have to think that certainly they have questions about the service of their loved ones. i think you cannot under estimate really the concern about somebody being left behind on the battlefield. does it happen? occasionally i can think of a couple of cases in the heat of battle during the worst times in iraq and afghanistan when perhaps it happened but, remember, these guys weren't even supposed to be in combat. they were going to help train and advise local african forces. they were going to go visit a village where they had been before with no problems. was isis watching them? were they complacent potentially
in their operations? we don't know. we're not suggesting that, but these are some of the questions that people have about what happened and how is it, you know, two weeks later i can tell you that today here in the pentagon from two sources i have heard that defense secretary mattis still wants answers and he still wants them two weeks after this battle took place, briana. >> lots of questions unanswered. barbara starr, thank you so much. i should also say jake tapper is going to have more on this coming up. plus, we have more breaking news. after the president reverses his endorsement, one republican has said the deal has stalled out. democrats are expressing their extreme frustration in trying to work with republicans. >> this president keeps zigging and zagging so it's impossible to govern. building a website in under an hour is easy with gocentral...
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we have some breaking news on president trump's stunning health care flip not. the white house is weighing in on trump reversing his endorsement of a bipartisan deal less than 24 hours after he praised the same deal. here it is. >> we've said all along that we want something that doesn't just bail out the insurance companies but actually provides relief for all-americans, and this bill doesn't address that fact. so we want to make sure that that's taken care of. we think that this is the step -- a good step in the right direction. this president certainly supports republicans and democrats coming to work together, but it's not a full approach and we need something
to go a little bit further to get on board. he wants to lower premiums. he wants to provide greater flexibility. he wants to drive competition. he likes the idea of block grants to states. those are a lot of the ideas he'd like to see in a health care plan. >> so trump tweeting today about the deal that was reached between republican lamar alexander and democrat patty murray. he said, quote, i am supportive of lamar as a person and the process but i cannot support bailing out insurance companies. lamar said he and the president absolutely agree that these subsidies, these cost reduction subsidies should benefit consumers and not insurance companies. he said i will work with the president to see if we can make it even stronger. let's talk it over with our panel. warren fox and crystal is a cnn politics reporter and editor at large. loren, my goodness, you could suffer from whiplash here after john thune said, quote, this is
stalling out. >> absolutely. what you have to remember is so much of this deal support was based on whether or not the president was going to get behind it. republicans on capitol hill are thinking that it may not be the best idea to stabilize obama care, a law they've been campaigning against, a law they were going to repeal and replace. if president donald trump had come out strongly and said, i need you to do this, it's very important for the next two years to stabilize the insurance market, surely republicans would have listened to that advice. now with the back and forth it makes it very hard to see how capitol hill could move forward with something like this. >> yeah, chris, where does this go? >> i think john thune is sort of indicating where it goes, which is unless they change it it goes nowhere. >> it seems like health care is this zombie, right? >> yeah. >> that always comes back. are we going to see a reincarnation? >> yes. i think we will see something,
briana, but the question is what and could it possibly pass? >> i think we know by now there are not 50 republican votes for any form that has been presented over repeal and replace of obamacare. i think we've learned that lesson. now the question is, is there a way to mend the insurance markets, mend obamacare for the near term, a band aid, to -- until they try to repeal and replace again? that's what we thought the bill they were putting forward might do. the truth of the matter with the president -- you saw sarah sanders talk about this. he likes the idea of bipartisan, he just didn't know it was in the bill. when the fact that the bill rolled -- put the subsidies that he had taken out back in, it's going to be very hard for him to be for it. >> but, i mean, that's like unforgivable that he doesn't even know what's in there, right? >> well -- >> you have one republican, nadeau, saying what else is new? he changes positions six times
before noon. it seems, lauren, this really speaks to the problem that his own party has trying to work with him, because they're trying to construct legislation essentially on quicksand. >> well, absolutely. senator chuck schumer said to reporters today that this is why it's so hard to cut a deal with the president. they're going into a huge tax reform battle in the upcoming months and it's going to be very hard for even republicans in trump's own party to support the president if they don't know exactly what he's asking them to do. if they come out with a plan and the president turns around and said, well, you know what, i still want a corporate tax rate at 15%, that 20% you're looking at is not good enough for me anymore. >> by the baway, brianna. the hardest thing for congressal republicans is not the tweeting, it's the un3rib89, right. >> sure. >> they don't know what he's going to do. number two, if past is prolog, they have a lot of reason to be skeptical of what he says. remember, he pushed to the
republican version of repeal and replace in the house. it finally passed the house. he was quoted as saying it's mean, right? when they were working -- >> after he had a huge rose garden kind of assembly for it. >> right. if you're a member of congress, you look at that and think, jeez, to lauren's point about the corporate tax rate, okay, he says 20% for 15% now, again, it's about predictability. they have no idea on a daily basis, what he's going to tweet. yes, that's a problem, but what he's going to say or change his view on as it relates to policy and that means making possible nearly impossible. >> it's like herding cats on a treadmill. it's just nuts. lauren fox, chris cillizza, thank you so much to both of you. we appreciate it. the other big issue at hand is that republican tax plan you just heard our panel there mention. it's going to be the topic for the cnn debate night tonight.
senator bernie sanders and ted cruz are going to battle it out tonight at 9:00 eastern. and next, attorney general jeff sessions exchanging heated words with senators over the russia investigation. hear what he had to say when asked if he's been interviewed by special counsel robert mueller. what powers the digital world. communication. that's why a cutting edge university counts on centurylink to keep their global campus connected. and why a pro football team chose us to deliver fiber-enabled broadband to more than 65,000 fans. and why a leading car brand counts on us to keep their dealer network streamlined and nimble. businesses count on communication, and communication counts on centurylink. how much money do you think you'll need in retirement? then we found out how many years that money would last them. how long do you think we'll keep -- oooooohhh! you stopped! you're gonna leave me back here at year 9? how did this happen?
attorney general jeff sessions made his highly anticipated return trip to capitol hill today to testify before the senate judiciary committee after being grilled earlier this year by his former colleagues. sessions back in the hot seat. questioned about the russia probe, what he knew and when he knew it. >> saying, i didn't discuss interfering with the election is your last -- is your last statement. that's a very different bar than i can tell you i did not meet with any russians. >> you have now gone through this long talk that i believe is totally unfair to me. it all arose from this question.
when it was charged that these documents allegedly say, quote, there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's insurgents, as if all of them, trump's insurgents and intermediaries for the russian government. isn't that what you said? you're shaking your head. >> no, not all trump insurgents. >> it said trump's insurgents, it didn't say some of, it said his insurgents. and i felt a need to respond. >> with me now is aysha, she's a cnn legal and national security analyst. she's also a former fbi special agent. and, aysha, sessions was questioned about a lot of topics. russia really dominated here and one of the things that was so interesting was that he repeatedly was asked to talk about his conversations with the president. i'm sure you heard his response to a number of those. let's play one of these
exchanges. it was with vermont democrat patrick leahy. >> okay. >> have you discussed with him any policies or positions of the campaign or trump presidency? >> i'm not sure about that. i met with the russian ambassador after i gave a speech at the republican convention. he was right in front of the speaker phone and we had a few -- we had an encounter there. i don't think there is any discussion about the details of the campaign other than it could have been that in that meeting in my office or at the convention that some comment was made about what trump's positions were. i think that's possible. >> explain the reason, aysha, that he says he can't disclose. >> so, the lack of disclosure he's essentially preemptively
trying to invoke some kind of prevent. so i'm talking about the comey -- not answering the questions about anything that happened with comey and then he has this other aspect about the russians, which kind of gets to conflicting testimony that he gave earlier. so in terms of asserting that he can't talk about confidential communications with the president, he's alluding to an executive privilege, and that's a privilege that has to be invoked by the president. it's not something that sessions can do on his behalf, and we saw this back in june. he kind of did the same thing he's had time now and i believe that the committee asked sessions to let the committee know whether the president was invoking this privilege and they didn't get an answer on that. so it's kind of a game of congressional who's on first and just going in circles because they're -- it's not moving
along. the process that is in place when there is a conflict between the executive branch and congress about what can be disclosed and what can't. >> i have one minute here, asha, so i want to get your input on this thing, shothough, he said this committee he had not been interviewed by the special counsel, robert mueller. what did you make of that? >> i don't know that that's entirely surprising. mueller is going to be moving in a very methodical way and i think he's going to be getting as much information as he can about the big picture before he goes and interviews the principals in the investigation who really have -- he's going to want -- he's going to want to know the answers to the questions before he asks them. that's really important in an investigation, so i don't know that it's entirely surprising that he hasn't yet interviewed sessions. i did find it a little surprising that sessions wasn't really sure whether mueller had made the request or not. it seems like that would be a top priority in terms of
knows -- even though he's recused from it formally, knowing what stage mueller might be in in terms of bringing in sessions into the investigation. >> we're certainly cures about that. asha, thank you so much to you. "the lead" with jake tapper starts right now. thanks, brianna. the commander in chief facing off against the family of a man he sent into battle. t "the lead" starts right now. it's the latest controversy in a story is that should be about soldiers and sacrifice, but now it's about president trump. now the family of a fallen soldier is going back and forth with the president and his aides whether his attempts at condolences ended up offending them. russian trolls infiltrating america and hitting some sensitive nerves on racial issues to stoke racial division. now american citizens realizing they went along with it, apparently unknowingly. plus, it has been a month and